Thursday, February 11, 2016

City Woven by Amnesiacs

A few years later, in another part of the city, Barragán became involved with another subdivision. Backed by former President Alemán and other powerful investors, the Satellite City was the project of Mario Pani.24 Begun in 1954, this covered over 2,000 acres and was intended to house some 200,000 people. It was obviously much less exclusive than El Pedregal, but still decidedly middle class and automotive in orientation. Fresh off his success at El Pedregal, Barragán was invited to design a promotional symbol for the project. He in turn invited his friend, the German émigré artist Mathias Goeritz, to collaborate. The Towers of the Satellite City were designed and built in 1957-1958.25

Drawing on the Charter of Athens and on then-recent satellite projects in Europe, Pani's Satellite City was one of many housing developments built at that time to ease Mexico City's growing pains. It was located alongside the city's main northbound highway, fourteen kilometers northwest of the Zócalo. According to Pani, the Satellite City when completed would be “absolutely self-sufficient.... a truly autonomous urban entity.”26 Its various sectors and super-blocks were carefully zoned to provide areas for habitation, recreation, education, civic and commercial functions, and parking and transportation. If these last took up a seemingly disproportionate share of the development's space, Pani said it was because this was “the epoch of the automobile,” and the Satellite City was “a city of the epoch.” He called it “a truly modern city... a city of the future, a city of tomorrow that we are beginning to build today.”27 In all of this the project was comparable to the University City, but if its functions were more genuinely diverse, its architectural forms were notably more homogeneous. According to one observer of the 1980s: Probably no section of the capital seems less identifiably Mexican than the endless sprawling neighborhoods of characterless middle-class homes in Satellite City to the north. The zone is a monument both to the middle-class Mexican's desire to own his home and to his fascination with the American way of life. Beside the multi-lane highways are huge shopping malls that are reachable only by car. The architecture of most houses could be described as modern utilitarian, although wealthier families have followed the American example of building homes around the golf courses and private clubs. 28

The towers designed by Barragán and Goeritz stand on a traffic island at the development's southern edge, surrounded by twelve lanes of blacktop. They are five in number and wedged-shaped, with their sharpest angles pointing back toward the city center. Made of reinforced concrete, hollow inside, they rise from a flat concrete-paved plaza, from 34 to 54 meters high, but as their site slopes downward toward the city, they might seem taller when approached from the south. Originally they were to have been much taller, as high as 200 to 300 meters, and accompanied by two additional towers. One was to have been used as an observatory, the others as water tanks. The ground was to be terraced and landscaped with steps, lawns, and a fountain or reflecting pool; the design was scaled back for economic reasons. According to the original scheme, two were left neutral in color and three were painted with plastic paints: one red, one yellow, one blue. Collectively they look like a somewhat miniaturized skyscraper city, or a vastly over-sized model of one, but either way they read as evident representations of buildings rather than buildings themselves. They share this aspect—the representation of modern urban architecture—with O'Gorman's painted Ciudad de México, but there the comparison ends. Where O'Gorman placed at the center of his painting a wide boulevard filled with people and cars, the Towers of the Satellite City present a peculiarly lifeless and abstract face. The space immediately around them is almost always empty. They are a quiet and all-but inaccessible center hemmed in by billboards and speeding cars, not a distinct place so much as a sign or symbol of something beyond themselves.

According to Pani, the towers stood for “man's untamable urge to transcend to great things...the spirit and the dignity of human works.”29 Goeritz called them a “plastic prayer.”30 More prosaically, they were advertisements. At El Pedregal Barragán had demonstrated his ability to turn otherwise undesirable land into valuable real estate and this, along with his friendship with Alemán, seems to have been the main reason for his having been invited to participate here. The towers—unavoidable elements of verticality and dash in an otherwise almost unrelentingly flat, monotonous landscape—beckoned would-be exurbanites to come, to stop and to imagine the possibilities of life in a newer, cleaner, safer, more exclusive “city outside the city.” They were, in effect, advertisements for urban flight.
In the chapter on "critical regionalism" in his book, Modern Architecture: A Critical History, Kenneth Frampton illustrated the work of Barragán with just one image: the Towers of the Satellite City.31 One would be hard-pressed to find a less regionalistic, less inherently Mexican design in Barragán's oeuvre. The towers grew from earlier projects by Goeritz which were themselves inspired by the medieval towers of San Gimignano, Italy, and by the modern ones of Manhattan. Barragán contributed his fascination for the haunting plazas of Italian painter Giorgio De Chirico, and his interest in Corbusian tower blocks.32 At El Pedregal he had showcased the native landscape; he echoed it there in the rambling, abstract, cubic forms of the houses that he built on his own and with Max Cetto. Patios, open-beamed ceilings, and rough stone walls referred discreetly to the site and to Mexican architecture of the colonial past. None of this sort of historical or geographical situating enters into the Satellite City project. Its five faceless concrete towers could be almost anywhere, anytime. What they evoke is not so much the dynamism of the modern city but an obscure reminiscence of a city of the past, or many cities, seen through the filter of memory and the flickering of the mind's eye. They are, say, New York in the 1920s, when Barragán saw it for the first time. They are the city left behind.
Nostalgia,” said Barragán, “is the poetic awareness of our personal past, and since the artist's own past is the mainspring of his creative potential, the architect must listen and heed his nostalgic revelations."33 With the Towers of the Satellite City there is no longer that sense of history—of specific shared experience, of justified violence, hard work, and future promise—that fueled O'Gorman's painting. There is instead a vague nostalgia: history with all pain (save the poetic variety) removed; in other words, a kind of forgetting, a flight from the tough truths of present and past, and a failure to imagine—or a disinterest in engaging— the future.34 Approaching the towers from the south, seeing them in all of their miniaturized mock urban splendor, one might not be amiss in thinking of another towered structure of the 1950s: Snow White's palace at Disneyland near Los Angeles. Both are castles in the air, icons of escape from cities growing recklessly.

This is an excerpt from the text "Settings for History and Oblivion in Modern Mexico, 1942-58," by Keith L. Eggener in : Jean-Francois Lejeune (ed.), Cruelty and Utopia: Cities and Landscapes of Latin America, Princeton Architectural Press, New York 2003

25. Trained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, Pani was lead planner at the University City, and designer of numerous prominent office buildings, schools, city plans, hotels, and public housing projects. See Louise Noelle Merles, “The Architecture and Urbanism of Mario Pani,” in Edward Burian, pp. 177-89; and Mario Pani: la visión urbana de la arquitectura (México D.F.: UNAM, 2000).
26. G. Nesbit, “The Towers of Satellite City,” Arts and Architecture 75 (May 1958): 22-23; and Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, “Luis Barragán: Urban Design and Speculation,” in Federica Zanco, ed., Luis Barragán: The Quiet Revolution, pp. 158-59, 252.
27.Mario Pani, “México: Un Problema, Una Solución,” Arquitectura México 60 (December 1957): 217.
28.Ibidem: 222, 225
29. Alan Riding, Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans (New York: Vintage Books, 1986), pp. 388-89.
30.Mario Pani, “México: Un Problema, Una Solución”: 225.
31.Federico Morais, Mathias Goeritz (México, D.F.: UNAM, 1982), p. 37.
32.Kenneth Frampton, Modern Architecture: A Critical History (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1992), pp. 318-20.
33.Luis Barragán, "Cómo Deben Desarrollarse las Grandes Ciudades Modernas: El Creciemiento de la C. de México," Zócolo no. 3,123 (12 Oct. 1959): sec. 4, p. 1. On his interest in De Chirico see Eggener, pp. 77-81.
34. Luis Barragán, “Barragán on Barragán”: 31.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Αρχείο νεώτερων μνημείων

Αρχείο νεώτερων μνημείων-Εθνικό Ιδρυμα Ερευνών

Monday, February 8, 2016

Guns, class war and a transvestite cat: what a new Beatrix Potter story reveals about the author

A Beatrix Potter story written more than 100 years ago is to be published for the first time, introducing a brand new character: Kitty in Boots. 
The tale, of a gun-toting cat who leads a double life, was found near-complete in an exercise book – and shows Beatrix Potter at her darkest, says Gaby Wood
Doppelgängers and transvestites, guns and gangsters, secret lives: these are not the first things that come to mind when considering the work of Beatrix Potter. Yet the creator of Peter Rabbit and Hunca-Munca once wrote a story that featured all of them. The Tale of Kitty in Boots was written just before the outbreak of the First World War but never published in Potter’s lifetime. Over 100 years later, Penguin Random House will finally release what they describe as Potter’s “24th Tale” – a book that may turn everything we think we know about her on its head.
By Gary Wood

Drawing of El Eco Experimental Museum

Progressive Architecture publication, Dec.1956 / Drawing of El Eco Experimental Museum by Mathias Goeritz.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Rotten Sun

Diablos con Sol (Devils with Sun), Anonimo,Ocumicho, Michoacan

Cartilla Socialista -Republicana

Plotino Constantino Rhodakanaty, Cartilla Socialista -Republicana, 1883 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Avant-garde and modernist magazines

This index lists avant-garde and modernist periodicals, first issues of which appeared between 1890 and 1939. Besides serving as an engine of discovery, it is also made to help following bibliographic references to sources. A couple of technical notes.. The 'Online' column lists freely accessible digitized versions of each magazine; the abbreviations used for digital libraries are listed in the section below. The first column points to the wiki pages with more information about titles which in many cases also contain versions mirrored on Monoskop. Some columns are sortable. Information is sourced from a number of repositories and reference websites. The list is far from being exhaustive [1] [2], preference is given to periodicals accessible online. As with all sections on Monoskop this page is a work in progress and contributions are welcome.

You can download it here : 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Social Lunch

Social Lunch, 2015-16 
Plywood, wood, acrylic
66 x 26 x 22 cm

Barragán’s Ciudad del México

A collection of unpublished drawings preserved by the Barragán Foundation bear witness to Luis Barragán’s hopes and fears for the future development of Mexico City. Text by Federica Zanco.

Paisaje de la Ciudad de Mexico

Juan O‘Gorman, Paisaje de la Ciudad de Mexico , 1947–49, tempera/masonite, 66 x120 cm (Collection of the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Obras de Plotino C. Rhodakanaty

Obras de Plotino C. Rhodakanaty. Edicion, Prolongo y notas de Carlo Illades, Recopilacion Maria Esther Reyes Duarte, UNAM, 1998

The Invention of “emotional architecture”

Extract from Reina Sofía Museum brochure of the exhibition:
Emotional Architecture: The Work as Strategy Mathias Goeritz (Danzig, now Gdansk, 1915) was educated in the turbulent Berlin of the inter-war period, in the midst of the rise of National Socialism. During the Second World War and the subsequent Cold War, Goeritz forged himself a multiple personality. He was first a philosopher and historian and afterwards a painter, a development which coincided with his period at the German Consulate in the Spanish protectorate of Morocco. From 1945 to 1948, Goeritz was feverishly active in Spain as a cultural promoter, and in 1949 he moved to Mexico, where he intensified his dual activity as an artist and agitator. It was there that he condensed his aesthetic principles under the notion of emotional architecture, which he was to apply not only to the construction of buildings but also to painting, sculpture, graphics and visual poetry. At a moment when figurative art and propaganda dominated the art scene in Mexico, emotional architecture became a device for confrontation, yet was well received by the politically more conservative architectural profession. The increased number of construction projects at that time meant that the potential for commissions was very great. The work manifesto of emotional architecture is the El Eco Experimental Museum which defines his later production. Here Goeritz gathers various media (painting, sculpture, furniture design and architecture) and works by artists like Germán Cueto, Henry Moore and Carlos Mérida, his own contributions being a monumental visual poem and the formidable transposable sculpture of a twisted geometric snake, transforming the open courtyard into a performance environment.

In Torres de Ciudad Satélite (Towers of Satellite City), the artist tests the limits of scale, artwork-viewer proximity, and even modes of viewing. Five reinforced cement prisms of colossal size foster the affective mobilization of the viewer and the aestheticization of the effect, turning the work into a national emblem of modernity. From then on, the use of a monumental scale and the synthetic language of geometries, associated with the idea of progress, identified Goeritz’s work as strategist and agitator. A constructor of spatialities where new relations and senses could be established, his art of mediations shakes the institutions that validate art, such as the museum and criticism (El Eco), artistic groups and the gallery (the group of Los Hartos), and history and believe systems (the snake and the pyramid or the cross and the star of David). Approaching his oeuvre obliges us to engage with a work implicated with cultural agency. The interest aroused today by the aspects of circulation and reception in relational, contextual and participative art contrasts with the development of that creative modality of artistic mediation, that aesthetic of commotion with which Goeritz experimented until his death in 1990.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mount the Air

Mount the Air-Installation view, Kalfayan Galleries
  Photo credit: Paris Tavitian

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Πλωτίνος Ροδοκανάκης

Τέο Ρόμβος, Πλωτίνος Ροδοκανάκης – Ένας Έλληνας Αναρχικός, Βιογραφία, Ηλέκτρα, Α΄ έκδοση 2005, Β΄ έκδοση 2008, σελ. 234βιβλία/plotinos-rodokanakis/

Alfred Jarry Archipelago

De Jarry on ne retient que le scandale d’Ubu Roi qui masque une œuvre complexe placée sous le signe de l’expérimentation radicale et le mélange des genres. En réunissant un ensemble exceptionnel d’artistes internationaux et inclassables, « Alfred Jarry Archipelago » démontre que tout un pan de l’art et de la performance actuels est traversé par cette puissance de transgression "jarryesque".

Poète, dramaturge et dessinateur, Alfred Jarry (1873-1907) pulvérise les frontières de l’ordre social, moral et esthétique du XIX ème siècle finissant. Retentissant comme un coup de tonnerre, le célèbre "Merdre !" de son Ubu Roi ouvre la voie aux développements de la modernité à venir.

D’un tournant de siècle à l’autre, l’œuvre et les idées de Jarry semblent irriguer de nouveau la société et l’art contemporain. Abolissant les limites (des disciplines, de l’identité, du bon sens et du bon goût) tant dans sa vie que dans ses écrits, Jarry inaugure une approche inédite de la théâtralité, du langage et du corps pour explorer les rapports de domination, liés au pouvoir ou au savoir. « Alfred Jarry Archipelago » se présente comme une spéculation sur les résurgences de ces motifs dans les arts visuels, à la lisière du politique, du théâtre et de la littérature.

Dans son célèbre Gestes et Opinions du Docteur Faustroll, pataphysicien, Alfred Jarry dédie chaque chapitre à un écrivain ou un peintre de son temps. Convoquant la figure de Jarry comme commissaire posthume, « Alfred Jarry Archipelago » imagine quel paysage artistique composerait l’auteur aujourd’hui. Autour d’une exposition collective et d’un festival à la Ferme du Buisson, le projet se déploie dans d’autres lieux et d’autres formats - et se conclura par une importante publication par les différents partenaires.

William Anastasi / Julien Bismuth / Paul Chan / Marvin Gaye Chetwynd / Rainer Ganahl / Dora Garcia / Naotaka Hiro / Mike Kelley / Tala Madani / Nathaniel Mellors / Henrik Olesen

Curators: Keren Detton and Julie Pellegrin

October 18, 2015–February 14, 2016  
Centre d’art contemporain de la Ferme du Buisson
Allée de la Ferme – Noisiel, Marne-la-Vallée

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Plebeian Council

Plebeian Council (Circulo de Obreros Series) 2015
Wood, acrylic, plaster
25 x 20 x 20 cm

Theaters of Democracy

In October 1943, parliament met to debate the question of how the heavily bomb-damaged Palace of Westminster should be restored. With Winston Churchill's approval, they agreed to retain its adversarial rectangular pattern instead of changing to a semi-circular or horse-shoe design favoured by some legislative assemblies. Churchill insisted that the shape of the old Chamber was responsible for the two-party system, which is the essence of British parliamentary democracy. It was at this debate that he famously noted: 'we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.'

Today a parliamentary commission is once again considering options for the urgent restoration of the Palace of Westminster. The scenarios include a proposal that MP’s decamp from the building for the 11 years of a £3.5 billion building project. If they remain in place, the project will be longer and costlier still.

At this crucial moment in the Houses of Parliament’s history, the Architecture Foundation is staging a special event at Westminster, at which panellists will address the question of whether the architecture of Pugin and Barry’s building remains fit for a twenty-first century democracy. In particular, they will ask how the imminent building works could enable a radical reinvention both of parliament’s built form and its democratic procedures.

Speakers include David Mulder and Max Cohen de Lara, of the Amsterdam-based XML Architects, whose research into the architecture of the world’s parliament buildings featured in the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale and is soon to be published in the book “Parliament”. They will be joined by Pugin’s biographer, Rosemary Hill, who will talk about the debates that led to the establishment of the Palace of Westminster in its present form and by Michael Deacon, the parliamentary sketchwriter of The Daily Telegraph, who will offer an insider’s view of the building’s successes and failures.

26 January
Attlee Suite, Portcullis House, London 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Ordre de la Grande Gidouille -Nomination de Boris Vian

Nomination de Boris Vian comme Promoteur Insigne de l'Ordre de la Grande Gidouille , le 22 Palotin 80 (11 mai 1953)


One day of Lectures of Hilde Goes Ager

1. Asger Jorn – Thinking in Threes’, introduction into the thinking/writing of the Danish experimental artist Asger Jorn by Hilde de Bruijn.
2. Alfred Jarry and Asger Jorn: The Epicurean Influence as Social “Swerve” by Kostis Velonis
3. What Asger Jorn help me [un]learn.” Theses concerning the movements and modes of the artist in the symmetrified world of economics by Yannis Isidorou

Asger Jorn – Thinking in Threes’, introduction into the thinking/writing of the Danish experimental artist Asger Jorn by Hilde de Bruijn.

The lecture starts out with a description of some of his work. This part of the presentation serves to both contextualize Jorn in his own time frame, and to introduce many of the key elements in his way of thinking as his artistic output was always developed in direct dialogue with his theoretical point of view. In the second part of the lecture I will discuss the triolectic thinking method that Jorn developed.

Hilde de Bruijn is a curator in contemporary and modern art based in Amsterdam. She studied Art History at the Radboud University, Nijmegen, and took the Curatorial Training Programme at De Appel, Amsterdam (2000/2001). She was Head of Exhibitions of former SMART Projects Space, Amsterdam (2007-2010). She is currently a curator at the Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amstelveen (NL) where she creates dialogues between the museum’ collection and contemporary art(ists).
As a freelance curator her main activity a curatorial research into the writings of the Danish artist and thinker Asger Jorn together with contemporary artists and art historians. The research is reflected in the blog Within this framework public events took place at various venues Or Gallery, Berlin (2015); The Statens Museum, Copenhagen (2014); Nieuwe Vide, Haarlem (2014); Officin – Books, Papers and Prints, Copenhagen (2014); Casco, Office for Art, Design and Theory, Utrecht (2014); AGORA, 4th Athens Biennial (2013).
Recent publications: ‘Cobra and the Contemporary’, in: CoBrA. Una grande avanguardia europea (1948-1951), Skira Edditore, Rome, 2015; ‘Asger Jorn: The Secret of Art, in: Bocchicchio Luca and Valenti Paola (eds), Asger Jorn. Oltre la forma, Genova University Press, 2015; ‘From a Calculated Forgetting to the Reality of the Archive’ in: Tsivopoulos, Stefanos and De Bruijn, Hilde (eds), Stefanos Tsivopoulos: ARCHIVE CRISIS, Shaking up the Shelves of History: A Visual Essay on Media Images from the Recent Political Past of Greece, Jap Sam Books, 2015.

Alfred Jarry and Asger Jorn: The Epicurean Influence as Social “Swerve” by Kostis Velonis

I am trying to answer the question whether the swerve (κλιναμεν) in the way that Lucretius defines it, involving the deviation of atoms in the field of physics, contributes to a theory of free will. If so, it can be operated by implication to the terms of a theatrical (Alfred Jarry) and pictorial avant garde (Asger Jorn), and even through clear morphological facts?
Μovements that deviate from their expected precise recurrence, thus defining what we call contingency, constitute Alfred Jarry’s way of philosophizing, through Dr. Faustroll, as well as his nihilistic caricaturizing, through the cowardly and greedy King Ubu. Respectively, Asger Jorn’s commitment to ‘primitivism’ and also his theoretical contribution to the practice of arabesque seeks answers beyond the “experimental” context of his Zeitgeist. Both of them, through the parody of physics (pataphysics) make use of the deviant course (declinatio) which is the structural substance of freedom.

Kostis Velonis lives and works in Athens. He holds an MRes in Humanities and Cultural Studies from London Consortium (Birkbeck College, ICA, AA, Tate). He studied Arts Plastiques/ Esthétiques at Université Paris 8 (D.E.A). He earned his PhD from the Department of Architecture, N.T.U.A University of Athens. He taught on the subject of domesticity in relation to the avant garde movements as a Lecturer at the School of Architecture of the University of Thessaly (2008-2011).

Selected solo/group shows include (2015-2014): 2015: “Mount the Air”, Kalfayan Galleries, Athens, “This probably will not work”, Lothringer 13-Städtische Kunsthalle München, Μunich; “Super superstudio”, PAC, Milan; “Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915 –2015”, Whitechapel Gallery, London; “Au nom de le Corbusier”, Maison Spiteris, Athens, “Rims and Frontiers” Delphi Archaeological Museum, 2014: “ The Theater of the World”, Museo Tamayo, Mexico City; “This is Not My Beautiful House”, Kunsthalle Athena, “No Country for Young Men”, BOZAR, Brussels; “Direct Democracy” , MUMA, Melbourne , “The Future Lies Behind Us”, AD Gallery, Athens, “Tout Feu Tout Flamme”, Lefebvre & Fils, Paris
Forthcoming solo show: Casa Maauad, Mexico City, Mexico, 2016 (artist in residence).

What Asger Jorn help me [un]learn.” Theses concerning the movements and modes of the artist in the symmetrified world of economics by Yannis Isidorou

Yiannis Isidorou was born in Piraeus and he lives and works in Athens. In most of his work and practices as an artist, he is seeking a coherent commentary on the human potential for interpreting the world, and at the same time a critical investigation on the utopia for the world’s change, and the consequent dystopian realizations of these changes.
He is co-founder and editor of the Greek e-magazine / danger.few, on politics, philosophy and art. Ηe was a founding member of intothepill, an artists’ collective with diverse activities and participations in international art projects and exhibitions. Since 2009 he works with artist Yiannis Grigoriadis through Salon de Vortex, an artistic co-operation for experiments and affiliations between artists, writers, theorists, technicians, workers, scientists and anyone else who can contribute to a thorough research on democracy, dominance and decay in the late capitalist European society. Since 2013 he is the artistic director of [ΦΡΜΚ], the biannual journal in print, on poetry poetics and visual arts.

Supported by DAAD Programme: Partnerships with Greek Institutions of Higher Education 2014 – 2016 / A Cooperation between the Academy of Fine Art Munich (ADBK) and the Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA)

One day of lectures and Q&A in the framework of HILDE GOES AGER, a curatorial research into the thinking and writing of the experimental artist Asger Jorn (1914-1973).

Thursday, December 31, 2015

All that we hold dear

All that we hold dear, 2015
Wood, plywood, acrylic, zinc, tissue,ceramic
147 x 39 x 12 cm
Photo credit: Paris Tavitian

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Designer's Dilemma

Elisha Otis did not invent the elevator.
Elisha Otis did create the safety catch that would prevent a vertically mobile enclosure from plummeting from great heights to great depths at very high speeds, injuring its passengers. This invention was demonstrated at the 1853 World’s Fair in New York, almost five thousand years after the elevator first came into usage.

Technically, Otis did not invent the elevator, although he is regularly credited with it. But it was his incremental improvement to an existing technology that launched what we now know as the elevator industry, the great facilitator of skyscraping cities, of vertical living, working, and buying.
Otis exemplifies what I call the designer’s dilemma – the tension that exists in the space between inventing and improving. If the designer’s role is to drive innovation on a large scale, how can we resolve ourselves to the incremental improvements that are necessitated by today's increasingly complex culture?
Now, this question is more relevant than ever: there is no single innovation that can counteract the innumerable injuries we have done to the global ecosystem. But if the key to tackling our environmental challenges lies within this world of iterative change and cumulative improvement – and I believe that it does – then what does this mean for design as a whole?

Cultural Pressures for Radical Change
An oversaturated consumer market and increasingly sophisticated end-user have made it difficult to differentiate products and services in today’s economy. Design has become the de facto solution for pursuing, and owning, the habits and routines of consumers. So strident is the competition for shelf-space and mindshare that incremental improvement is often thought akin to colossal failure. While designers excel at making the small changes that shape everyday experiences, in this competitive climate we are compelled to pursue the next big thing with great ferocity. We seek change in the Orwellian sense – paradigm-shifts, phoenix products, dot-something web landmarks. And success has a short memory; we are measured only by our most recent achievement: the last to-market, the newest award-winner, the latest recognition by the digerati.

It is a challenge, then, that in this time of fierce competition and creative pressure, we are pummeled by the tsunami of the green movement. It is virtually impossible to avoid the daily discussions of climate change, G8 debates, and company manifestos. This is the single most significant movement of our generation – a veritable perfect storm of social awareness, corporate interest, and technological advancement. All things “green” have entered the cultural vernacular, and our contemporary currency is a fluency with these issues. Just as the market pressures us to create more individual design contributions, it has become obvious that the key to meaningfully addressing environmental issues is through additive change – continual improvement, rather than discrete invention. There is no magic bullet, no single a-ha moment, no “iPod” of the green movement.
So in this time of transformation, when new thinking is so critical, why are designers at a standstill? Why has design not been at the forefront of this movement with new solutions and roadmaps for change? In many ways, the green movement is threatened by the prevailing mentality in design today – one that equates sustainability with stasis, and collaboration with mimicry.
Of course, there are the requisite resin-seeped art pieces, recycled coated paper packaging explorations, and sunflower-seed kitchen cabinets. But at this cultural inflection point, we need to do more than create niche products and art pieces. We need to do more than play corporate catch-up or throw our hats into the ever-enlarged PR ring of greenery. We need to stimulate mass change.
In the same way that we approach design challenges – not by purporting to have all of the answers, but instead by assuredly asking the right questions – we must recognize that we don’t have the solution yet because our formula has been wrong. Our addiction to sweeping change has hobbled us from seeing the most obvious opportunities for improvement. In order to create a radical position around sustainability, we need to change our concept of design. Our first green products must be ourselves.
Perhaps the most revolutionary characteristic of the environmental movement is its sheer scope. Activist Paul Hawken describes it as the largest and fastest growing movement in the world, comprising more than 2 million organizations worldwide. This vast reach provides a great opportunity for facilitating change - but it also poses a unique set of challenges regarding the management and self-identity of such a broad, loosely connected network.

Designers are just one of many groups clamoring to contribute within this space. NGOs, commercial businesses, technologists, academics, and governments are all forging ahead with their individual visions, sharing the public's attention. Together, the many voices of this movement form a harmony, deeper and more complex than any solo the designer alone can offer.
Yet this is a new and uncomfortable space for many designers to occupy, indoctrinated as we are with the importance of differentiation and exclusivity. To date, we have succeeded in our difference, not our similarities. We are accustomed, in many ways, to known boundaries. This is not to say that designers are not continuously pushing those boundaries and rewriting our own histories and futures, but rather that our design thinking tools and methods (narrative, motion, form, virtuality) have remained relatively constant. Even as our industry has evolved to integrate robust strategic and analytical perspectives, our jurisdiction has remained clear. Even as we engage in transformational thinking, build new business and brand models, and tackle human-interaction challenges in emerging economies, we are still designers. The horizon line moves with us.

Our clients expect our ability to translate research and ideation into concrete products and services. And they know we'll be able to differentiate them - at least for a while - from their competitors. But now we are not dealing with competitors, we are elbow-to-elbow with people who share our ethic, and to engage in the traditional competitive stance would be counterproductive. In a world where everything is connected and we all share common goals, how do we satisfy our deep instinct to create a unique position for ourselves?
We need a new strategy.
When in deep waters, become a diver
As we redefine the role of design in this new world order, we must look to each other for ideas and inspiration. Individually greening our companies is not sufficient. By pooling our knowledge, we can create a network in which every client is compelled to engage in a discussion of sustainability - no matter which firm it selects as a design partner. Together, we can advocate for the improvements - large and small - that will produce lasting change.
By creating independent "green design" practices that exist adjacent to traditional industrial design, engineering, and digital media design offerings, we only marginalize the issue. To effect real change, we need to apply a green lens to all of our activities, not just some of them. Environmental intelligence needs to be fully assimilated within the entire design process, across the entire field.
Of course, in order to engage in an informed conversation with our clients, we also need to commit to educating ourselves and our teams about eco-friendly behaviors and environmental strategies. This undertaking is significant, for as we ask more in-depth questions, the answers become more difficult to locate.
frog* has initiated a Kyoto Treaty of design - a call to arms for the creative community around environmental stewardship. Our initial thoughts and conversations have led to these basic tenets, but these are just a start. We ask each member of the the design community to commit to these principles and join with us in building upon them:
- Helping craft a larger social equity protocol for the design community
- Publicly ratifying that agreement, and committing to its compliance
- Contributing to the communal knowledge base for sustainable design
- Advancing the intellectual understanding of environmental issues from a design perspective
- Offering green analysis to clients, or partnering with others to conduct this analysis
- Providing material alternatives for sustainable product development
- Investigating manufacturing processes and rewarding green innovation
- Minimizing environmental impact from prototyping or model-making activity
- Publicly reporting the carbon footprint of our firms
- Becoming educated about the environmental impact of our work
Everything we know is inverted. Everything we rested our beliefs on is cast in a new light. Change happens fast, and we need to act quickly. We are revisiting our practices, our methods, and our philosophies. We are talking to each other. We are leaving our egos behind.
If you are ready for change, join us.

Text by Valerie Casey

*frog is a global design and strategy firm; the author was creative director of design research and design strategy at frog.
This article was the first written piece about The Designers Accord (which at the time was named the "Kyoto Treaty" of Design). It was featured in the frog Design Mind newsletter, summer 2007.

Language of the Birds: Occult and Art

Panos Tsagaris, Untitled2015, leaf, acrylic and silkscreen on canvas , 32.5"x21" (82x53cm)

Language of the Birds: Occult and Art considers over 60 modern and contemporary artists who have each expressed their own engagement with magical practice. Beginning with Aleister Crowley's tarot paintings and Austin Osman Spare's automatic drawings of the 1920s, the exhibition traces nearly a century of occult art, including Leonora Carrington and Kurt Seligmann's surrealist explorations, Kenneth Anger and Ira Cohen's ritualistic experiments in film and photography, and the mystical probings of contemporary visionaries such as Francesco Clemente, Kiki Smith, Paul Laffoley, BREYER P-ORRIDGE, and Carol Bove.

The concerns and influences of each of these artists are as eclectic as the styles in which they work. While several of the pieces deal with "high" or ceremonial magic, others draw from so-called "low magic" practices and have deeply chthonic roots. The approaches in technique are varying as well, with some doing years of research and preparation for the act of creation, and others working entirely intuitively. Regardless of method, Language of the Birds suggests that all are part of the same lineage: one that pulls on threads from the esoteric web of alchemy, Hermeticism, Spiritualism, Theosophy, divination and witchcraft. The exhibition takes its name from the historical and cross-cultural notion that there is a magic language via which only the initiated can communicate. Often referred to as the "language of the birds," it is a system rumored to operate in symbols, and to be a vehicle for revealing hidden truths and igniting metamorphic sparks. 

The artists in Language of the Birds can be considered magicians, then, when seen through this mythopoeic lens. A visual vocabulary is offered up by them, so that we all might be initiated into their imaginal mystery cults and dialog with the ineffable. They speak to us in secret tongues, cast spells, and employ pictures for the purpose of activating profound change in both themselves and in us. By going within, then drawing streams of imagery forth through their creations, each of these artists seeks to render the invisible visible, to materialize the immaterial, and to tell us that we, too, can enter numinous realms.

Curated by Pam Grossman

Artists:Kenneth Anger * Anohni (FKA Antony Hegarty) * Laura Battle * Jordan Belson * Alison Blickle * Carol Bove * Jesse Bransford * BREYER P-ORRIDGE * John Brill * Robert Buratti * Elijah Burgher * Cameron * Leonora Carrington * Francesco Clemente * Ira Cohen * Brian Cotnoir * Aleister Crowley * Enrico Donati * El Gato Chimney * Leonor Fini * JFC Fuller * Helen Rebekah Garber * Rik Garrett * Delia Gonzalez * Jonah Groeneboer * Juanita Guccione * Brion Gysin * Frank Haines * Barry William Hale * Valerie Hammond * Ken Henson * Bernard Hoffman * Nino Japaridze * Gerome Kamrowski * Leo Kenney * Paul Laffoley * Adela Leibowitz * Darcilio Lima * Angus MacLise * Ann McCoy * Rithika Merchant * William Mortensen * Rosaleen Norton * Micki Pellerano * Ryan M Pfeiffer & Rebecca Walz * Max Razdow * Ron Regé, Jr. * Kurt Seligmann * Harry Smith * Kiki Smith * Xul Solar * Austin Osman Spare * Charles Stein * Shannon Taggart * Gordon Terry * Scott Treleaven * Panos Tsagaris * Charmion von Wiegand * Robert Wang * Peter Lamborn Wilson

January 12 - February 13
80WSE Gallery, NY
New York University

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro: Some Reflections on the Notion of Species in History and Anthropology

The text that follows was written by the Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro (Rio de Janeiro, 1951) in response to a questionnaire regarding the problem of species prepared and sent to him by Álvaro Fernández-Bravo, for e-misférica 10.1. The recent work of Viveiros de Castro is not too well known by American [English] readers. His most important English-language book came out twenty years ago, From the Enemy’s Point of View: Humanity and Divinity in an Amazonian Society (The University of Chicago Press, 1992). He recently published The Inconstancy of the Indian Soul: The Encounter of Catholics and Cannibals in 16-century Brazil (Prickly Paradigm Press, 2011), which is a translation of his previously published work. Among his most important recent works are A inconstância da alma selvagem e outros ensaios de antropologia (São Paulo: Cosac & Naify, 2000), Métaphysiques cannibals. Lignes d’anthropologies post-structurale (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2009), and the Spanish version of the same book, Metafísicas caníbales. Líneas de antropología postestructural (Buenos Aires: Katz, 2010). He has taught at the University of Chicago, Cambridge University, University of Manchester, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, Universidade de São Paulo, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil and is currently professor of Anthropology at the National Museum, Federal University of Río de Janeiro as well as researcher at CNRS, France.
The focus of the questions addressed to the author was organized around the topic of Multinaturalist Perspectivism, a concept developed in his work that emphasizes the point of view of Amazonian Indigenous peoples. Viveiros de Castro’s argument is to move out from the Amerindian world as an object of observation/study into an effort to look to the world (including its non-human components) from an Indigenous point of view. Not the return of the native, but the turn of the native, as he has stated. Amerindian perspectivism is a theory and vision of the world with a strong connection to “multinaturalism”, a category opposed to multiculturalism that assumes the coexistence of different “natures” as in Amazonian cosmology. These “natures” include non-human animal perception along with a human one, all of them sharing a common perspective or affinity. As the author put it, what matters is no longer to classify the species in which nature is divided, but to know how the species themselves take over this task (2010: 69), producing images of nature according to their perspective. In his books and articles, in active dialogue with Deleuzian philosophical positions, Viveiros de Castro refers in many opportunities to “species”, particularly in relation to the human-animal pair. Animals and humans share a common point of view, according to which different and moving “natures” are conceived.
The questions addressed to Eduardo Viveiros de Castro asked him to develop some of his concepts, particularly the relationship between Multinaturalist Perspectivism and species. Is the category of “species” still useful to understand the world? What is its value to produce knowledge? Is it possible to avoid the epistemic violence that has characterized taxonomies and racialist hierarchies in the History of Science in the West and continue thinking with “species”? Shall we preserve “species” as a conceptual tool or should it be abandoned at all? Is it possible to capture “species” and assign them an emancipatory function?
Text by Álvaro Fernández Bravo

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Birth of Coexistence

The Hellenic American Union and Hellenic American College (HAEC) in cooperation with Hellenic American University (Manchester, NH, USA) present a visual arts exhibition curated by Hara Piperidou.

In regards to the art, the semantic, political and aesthetic load that the prefix "co" bears, is located predominantly within the project itself. Structured in a dialectical moment, it is the element that manages to give birth to new contours and meanings. The "birth of coexistence" implies that artistic creation does not simply produce an object: it created identities, relationships and reflections, strings that derive from a chore to connect the objects that surround it with new forms of attraction or repulsion, reconciliation or violence.

Participating artists: Ameladiotis Dimitris, Charalambidis Nikos, Dimitropoulou Martha, Douka Anastasia, Kanarelis Nikos, Kafouros Elias, Papailiakis Ilias, Piperidou Hara, Sachini Nana, Tserionis Giorgos, Velonis Kostis, Tsitsopoulos Filippos, Performance: ntilit Exhibition text: Theophilos Tramboulis